Music Reviews: Henry Wears Warpaint, Or Shyne On You Crazy Martini

December 1, 2014

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Pink Martini: Get Happy                                   6

Warpaint: Warpaint                                          4

Ozark Henry: Stay Gold                                    6

Shyne: Meet Me At The Edges                         6

 

 pinkmartini

Listening to Pink Martini can be a slightly bewildering experience, as the collective is so large and the range of the music they take on so all-encompassing that their albums sound like compilations of artists from around the world rather than the efforts of a single, focused outfit. That concern doesn’t impact on the enjoyment of the music though, thanks mostly to the extremely high level of musicianship on display. The vocals in particular are spectacular, with stalwart China Forbes matched by Storm Large (mainstream names clearly not a given in this band) and Robert Taylor recalling the best of the Bing Crosby era on the Rodgers and Hart number She Was Too Good To Me. Recognisable (by their voices) guests include Rufus Wainwright – a perfect fit for this approach – on Kitty Come Home and a dramatic version of Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again, and Phyllis Diller closing out the collection with Charlie Chaplin’s Smile.

warpaint

Albums featuring tracks named Intro up front often arouse suspicion – which is usually proved accurate – that the act involved is up to something new and that they figure their fans may be owed the benefit of some time to acclimatise. This new collection sees Los Angeles quartet Warpaint wandering towards a more meandering prog-rock sound than was the case on their relatively poppy 2010 release The Fool. As is often the case when psychedelia is introduced to already unconventional song structures, focal points become increasingly difficult to come by and it’s difficult to stay engrossed. The band say these songs were built from the ground up while touring and during rehearsal sessions, but if that is the case, all the final results prove is that there must be a lot of time on tour spent noodling, fiddling with settings on keyboards and warbling sweet nothings into microphones. The best of an iffy bunch is Disco//Very, which has hints of The Gossip’s spiky dancefloor pop.

ozark henry

He looks like the love child of William Wallace and Bjork on the cover of his new collection, but Belgian singer-singwriter Piet Goddaer (Ozark Henry) is neither as strenuously robust as the former (judging purely from his consistent use of falsetto – not the sort of voice you need when bellowing orders at an army) nor quite as left-field as the latter, from whom he’s nicked the swan-as-accessory costume idea. For his sonic platform, Goddaer goes with atmospheric electronica, moody and self-indulgent when the hooks are less evident (as on opener Deep), but reminiscent of Coldplay or a more experimental U2 when melodies are prioritised, as on first single I’m Your Sacrifice, which is a good balance of commercially friendly and agreeably alternative with its call and response vocal from the wonderfully named Amaryllis Uitterlinden. There’s more good stuff, too, with We Are Incurable Romantics as melancholy as its title suggests and If You Leave sounding like an outtake from Achtung Baby. That last comment is perhaps somewhat unfair: Goddaer’s material is not a take-off of the more narcissistic end of a mega-popular band’s output, but rather a considered, carefully designed sound that’s carefully maintained throughout the collection. In terms of the broad appeal of all the songs, though, there are mixed results. There are great titles like It Was A Queer Sultry Summer and Stay Gold Ponyboy Stay Gold, but the wit suggested in those names is absent from the compositions, with the latter just being seven-plus minutes of electronic noodling.

shyne

The “folk music” epithet often applies to anyone who tells a story with their lyrics and doesn’t turn up their amplifier too loud. Much of Shyne’s output harks back to the more old-fashioned idea: instruments that don’t need to be plugged in, and lyrical themes pitched simply and directly at the listener. Guitarists Owl and Andy Proome – supported by drummer Nathaniel Gbenga and occasional touches of flute and saxophone from Chris Tokalon – are aware enough of dynamics to allow a good deal of space in their mostly counter-picked arrangements. And singer Simone has a voice that keeps the overall sound light, but can also sink lower to add a rock edge (as in Truth In You and Haunches). EP – Meet Me At The Edges is seven tracks long – opener Hollywood Beach is the gem in the collection, with a Seventies feel (in the complementary, tone-related sense, rather than simply having a retro vibe). Torn Between You And The Sky is almost as good, with a cascading melody that gives it a wistful feel. And The Rise leans towards the poppier side of Natalie Merchant’s ouput. The EP features a good balance between immediately accessible and more alternative tracks. There’s a bit of room for more polish in the production, but ironically, shining the collection up might destroy of the folk credibility of the band.

CATEGORIES